Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why Montessori?

The first time I walked into a Montessori primary (prekindergarten) classroom, I was astonished. Picture twenty-five 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds in one room with two adults. Chaos, right? Yet this room was the picture of harmony. Three or four quiet voices could be heard as children busied themselves with self-selected activities and tasks at various tables and rugs throughout the room. These activities could be found on neatly-arranged wood shelves that divided up the classroom into workspaces. The adults blended into the the surroundings and were by no means the central focus; occasionally, one would pop up from a table where she was demonstrating a technique or taking notes.

Around the time I sat down to observe in an out-of-the-way corner, a redheaded youngster of about four decided to serve bananas. I watched as he unrolled a mat over the surface of a nearby desk, then walked back and carefully lifted the tray designated for banana slicing - a plate, a banana, a knife, a paper towel, toothpicks - all neatly arranged on top of it. He put on an apron and sat down to his task. While I marvelled, not even realizing that peeling, slicing, "toothpicking," and serving were developing his understanding of sequencing and his motor abilities, the child worked without interruption or break until he had a plate full of appetizer-like banana chunks. He stood with a smile and walked around the classroom, inviting other children to take one. When they did, he beamed with pride, but the polite "no thank you" from other children did not seem to faze him.

If this visit alone was not enough to convince me, my study of Montessori theory, my work as a teacher and graduate student in the field of education, and my everyday life experiences certainly did. Perhaps I'm an idealist, but it seems to me that the world we live in needs an educational system that is focused on more than reading scores and grade point averages. An "educated citizenry" does more than read, write and apply math formulas to data. It thinks critically about current world issues. And though I know many might argue against this, but a good school teaches not only academics, but tolerance, a sense of justice, compassion, self-direction, and the myriad of other personal characterstics that contribute to successful participation in our diverse, complex world.

I chose Montessori because it believes - not even that schools can impart these characteristics - but that they are a natural part of human development. Even a utilitarian might agree with this. Compassion, self-direction, a sense of justice - these qualities help a person successfully navigate human society. I chose Montessori because I agree with the Montessori and many other educational philosophers like Kohn that rewards and punishments are an external, arbitrary, and unnecessary imposition on the educational process. I chose it because every time I read a fellow Montessorian's writing or return to Montessori's books, I find myself saying, "Yes. I wholeheartedly agree."

I feel fortunate to have found a philosophy that so completely matches my own at such a young age. It has enabled me to study it in-depth, reflect upon it and test it against the teachings and preachings of other writers, and apply it to my life. I am even more fortunate in that I can apply its teachings and principles to the unfolding life of my son. This is the focus of my blog - what it means to raise a Montessori child, how I have transformed her philosophies into everyday life practices, and what has resulted from my endeavors.

1 Comments:

At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Bridget said...

Wow, what a great statement!

 

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